My new teen novel: My year of Crazy

I'm working on a new novel for 11-14 year old girls. This one's called 'My Year of Amazing Crazy' and features twins Coco and Charlie Franks. Here's the first chapter. If you know a girl of the right age for my audience, share it with them and see what they think!


The day after my 13th birthday, my life fell apart. 

It was utterly and completely my dad’s fault. At the time I blamed him for everything. With just three sentences he managed to completely turn my whole family upside down and ruin my life forever.

One minute we were sitting around the table about to enjoy my birthday cake.  The next minute my mum was gasping, my brother was whooping, my twin sister was speechless and I was crying and running upstairs and slamming the door.

The worst thing about it was that finally, my life was just about to become perfect. Everything I had hoped for since I started high school was about to happen. I had just been accepted into the most popular group in the school. I was about to fix the biggest problem with my looks – my teeth. And, best of all, I was about to meet the boy of my dreams.

My year was supposed to be amazing. Instead, it was crazy.

Let me explain.

My name is Coco Franks and when this all started I had finally just become a teenager! I had been waiting impatiently to hit my teens since I was 10 and it felt like it took forever. Turning 13 felt like it would be the beginning of everything for me. Now I could finally dress grown up (no more pink, mum!), go places with my friends and get a boyfriend.

I have a twin sister called Charlie, and yes, she’s also 13, before you ask. It’s obvious to me, but you’d be surprised how many people still have to check that we’re the same age even though they know we’re twins.

Charlie and I are not identical twins, so we have quite different personalities, but we still look freakishly alike.  At least we would if she bothered to put on any makeup or think about her clothes at all.  That's what I mean about having different personalities.  I care about how I look -- a lot.  Charlie just doesn't care at all.

The really annoying thing about that is that Charlie doesn’t have the flaws I have. She has these amazingly long, curly eyelashes which look incredible even without mascara. Mine are short, not curly and a very light brown. If I don’t put make-up on it looks like my eyes are naked. But that’s not the biggest problem. Charlie has perfect teeth. They are straight, white and shiny. Mine are straight, it’s true, but they aren’t white. And it’s not because I haven’t brushed them. Believe me, I have spent hours in the bathroom with the whitening toothpaste. The dentist says some people just get stained enamel. They can’t do anything about it and it’s not their fault. It’s just the way it is.

When I first noticed how bad they were I made a decision to never smile in a photograph again until my teeth were fixed. I also began to deliberately suck my lips down over my teeth so that I wouldn’t be tempted to open my mouth and show them off. I do it when I am nervous or upset.

For a year now I’ve been pestering mum to let me get my teeth bleached. I googled ‘stained teeth’ one day when mum was letting me use her computer and nearly fell off my chair when I found out that you can do something about it. When I told her about it she looked in my mouth and said, “but it’s really not that bad Coco. I mean, the colour is a little bit uneven but it’s no more really than anyone else.”

When I cried, she looked again and then compared with Charlie’s teeth.

“Well, I suppose there is a bit of difference,” she said after staring into my mouth for about five minutes.

“Yeah but really,” said Charlie. “Is it that much of a problem?”

“Yes!” I said. “You’re just saying it’s okay because you don’t want me to feel bad. But seriously, you would have to be blind not to notice how ugly they are. I really need this done. Please let me? Please!”

“Okay,” said mum. She said it in that way when people are kind of giving up and giving in. “Oh-kaaaay. I will talk to the dentist and we will see. It’s not the kind of thing that you should get done before you’re a teenager though. You’ll have to wait until you are at least 13.”

“Thanks mum! Thank you! You are the best. You have no idea how this will help!” I said. And I danced around, hugging her. Charlie just grinned with all her teeth showing. “White… Your teeth will be whi-i-te...” she said in a silly voice, so I hit her on the head and then she chased me up the stairs.

I have heard of twins, even identical ones, who don’t get on. Charlie and I have never been like that, even though we’re different. She’s talented at everything – school, sport, debating, running – whatever. I’m okay at things, and if Charlie wasn’t around people would probably think I’m pretty good, but whatever we do together she ends up doing better than me. It’s not because she’s trying to outdo me though. She just is good at stuff. She can’t help it. And I don’t mind. Really. I don’t get jealous – not much anyway. She’s my twin and anyway, she can pretty much always make me smile. Even when we argue, we don’t stay angry for long.

People have different theories about twins.  Sometimes they think you should never separate us, other times they think we should be separated from kindergarten and never dressed alike or anything.

I guess my parents must have decided that the separation theory was at least partly right because they sent us to different schools when we started year 7 last year.

“It’s so you can have your own lives and make your own friends without having to be tied to each other the whole time,” mum said when she was explaining it. I felt sad for about a week but then we got used to the idea. In fact after that I thought it was probably pretty smart. Who knew – perhaps it could actually help my social life not to have a better looking, sporty and all-around talented sister always around?

And that was the reason that Charlie went to St Catherine's School, down the road from our house and I started to catch the bus to St Agnes School for borders and day girls in the next suburb.

Catching the bus gave me quite a lot of time to do my nails, even though it's a bit tricky to get it perfect with all the stopping and starting. We were actually not supposed to have nail polish on at school  but Samantha and I discovered pretty early on that if you keep it simple and use very light pink, you can get away with it. We also had a competition to see who could keep their make up on all day.  What I mean by that was we tried to get past the teachers without getting busted and made to wipe it off. Technically, we were not supposed to wear makeup at school for some bizarre reason but of course, most people tried.

Samantha is my best friend.  Well, at least she was. That’s part of the story too. I would never have thought she’d betray me like she did, and in such a vicious way. We trusted each other – at least I thought so. I had no idea, not one clue, that it would all go so wrong.

Samantha and I went to primary school together but we only really became friends in year six. Before that I always used to play with Charlie and her friends but then they started to play soccer with the boys, and it was just too muddy and too icky for me.  I hate getting sweaty and dirty and running around all the time. And I really don't like smelly boys.  Don’t hear me wrong. I don't mean that I don't like boys. I actually like boys a lot. I just don't like smelly ones. And you can guarantee that after boys play soccer, they will smell.  Bad.

Samantha and I became friends because of our school library.  Mrs Stormont, the librarian, bought a whole lot of stuff on the history of fashion, hairdressing and skin care.  We were both getting out the same books at the same time, and pretty soon we were sharing nail polish and hanging out after school.

Charlie has never liked Samantha and after she found out how she stabbed me in the back, she said that she wasn’t surprised. From the very beginning she thought she was stupid, although I don’t know if she realised how mean she could be.

Once when Charlie was supposed to be doing her English homework, she was using a thesaurus and checking out all of the different words you can use for dumb. She made a list, including vapid, airhead and shallow and wrote Samantha's name above them.  Then she screwed up the piece of paper into a ball and threw it at me, so of course I hit her. And then of course Charlie jumped on me and I screamed and pulled her hair and pretty soon mum heard the noise and then we were both doing extra chores for a week. 

My mum is pretty strict.  And she doesn't put up with fighting or saying bad words to each other. She has this thing where if you swear, you have to clean the toilet. She doesn't even say anything about it but instead she just hands you the gloves, the bleach and the toilet brush and then she points in the direction of the nearest bathroom.

I say the nearest bathroom because we had quite a few bathrooms in our house.  Before Dad went nuts we lived in Randwick, which is in the eastern suburbs of Sydney, in a really big terrace house.  My mum grew up in it when she was young.  I guess some people might call it a mansion.  I mean, it was a really nice house.  Plus, my mum used to be a designer, so it looked really good inside.  But there were a lot of bathrooms. Which was good, when you needed to go, but not so good if you did something wrong and your mum thought you needed to learn a lesson.

Josh, my older brother, hardly ever cleaned the toilets. It wasn’t because he didn’t swear -- it's because he hardly said anything at all, except for “Cool,” or, “Whatever,” or “Uh-huh”. In fact really the only time he talked was when he was teasing me. And believe me, he could do that pretty well. He had the grown ups totally fooled into thinking he was the responsible one. He could say something rude under his breath so that only I could hear it, and of course I would react and scream or yell or cry and then it looked like my fault.

I used to think that even though Josh was only 15, he thought he was an adult. He always said he only teased me because I was stupid and I didn’t understand anything and I needed to grow up, but really, if being a grown up meant reading the newspaper and watching the ABC and talking to dad about stuff that I didn’t even understand – finance and banks and climate change and all the kinds of things that they make you write boring speeches about at school – then I’d rather not.

Our terrace house had three storeys. My room and Charlie's rooms were at the very top. I loved my room. That’s another part of my life that was perfect. I had all my clothes spread around me, my photographs on the wall and a big pink furry beanbag in the corner. When I was 12 I got mum to buy me a massive purple mosquito net, which I hung from the ceiling over my bed.  I had about 50 cushions in purple, pink and gold on the bed and when I went to sleep I felt like a princess in a luxurious palace.

My absolute favourite thing about my room was my dressing table.  I got it after about three months of begging and pleading. Instead of being made out of wood, the entire dressing table was made from mirrors -- legs and everything. When I saw it I just knew that I had to have it so mum and I did a deal where I would pay for half if she would buy the rest.  It was definitely worth saving my canteen money for.

Charlie's room was completely different from mine.  When she turned 12 she got rid of her carpet and painted the floorboards white to match the walls. Then she got permanent textas and did doodles all over the wall. Everyone who went into her room was allowed to sign their name and draw something for her. 

Instead of decorations, she had her sports stuff hanging around -- footballs, soccer balls and trophies. Plus above her bed there was a poster of a black horse which she had had since she was in year four. She always said that one day that horse would be hers. I couldn’t imagine how she thought she could have a horse living in the eastern suburbs of Sydney, which is about the most crowded part of the whole of Australia.  Well actually, I couldn't imagine it before. But after dad flipped out it seemed like the impossible would become possible after all.

Dad.  Well, I would have said that he was normal. He always seemed pretty much like everyone else's parent.  He worked in an office in a bank in the city.  He left early in the morning before we got up and got home for dinner at 7 oclock. He wore a tie.  He carried a briefcase.  He got the bus. He watched TV.  I mean, what else can you say about your dad?  Sometimes he was fun, sometimes he was grumpy and sometimes he was easy to ignore. I guess I just didn’t really think that much about him.

But he certainly got my attention that night at dinner. His insane ideas were about to ruin my life and there was nothing I could do. Everything I’d been waiting for since I was 10 was about to happen. Life was about to get amazing. But in one sentence Dad took it all away.

Didn't he know that this was the most important year of my life so far?  Didn’t he realise that by changing everything now, I could suffer social death for the rest of my high school career?  Couldn't he see that by changing everything he was making me into a loser? An outcast?

I guess he just didn’t understand about the Sisterhood. Because that was what I was so upset about.